Yesterday a gunman burst into a gradeschool, killing more than 20 people- mostly children-- then killing himself.
The nation was understandably shocked at this happening. The word "tragedy" somehow doesn't even seem to fit. How could someone commit this atrocity? Yet this is not the first time such a thing has happened. Surely no one has forgotten Columbine... or the movie theater of just this year.
Like everyone I am saddened at such outrages, but also find myself somehow oddly numb and jaded. It's not that I'm an uncaring person; just the opposite actually. But I am by nature a very logical, analytical and pragmatic person who despite founding a decent-size fantasy-based group, tends to look reality straight in the face. And when I examine that reality, the main question that comes to mind at a time like this is, "What did we expect?"
How could that young man do such a thing? I can think of several reasons:
1. Extremely gory and violent movies and DVDs
2. Unregulated Internet full of all things vile and repulsive
3. Ultra-violent, anti-ethical, immoral computer games in which taking human life in the most monstrous ways possible becomes a source of "scores" and achievement
The nay-sayers no longer have much evidence in their corner. This is no longer the 1950s, with television just emerging. We've had six decades to analyze human response to visual input and the reports are in: what we feed our minds is what we become. YES, the mind is a complex computer and yes, "Garbage-in / Garbage-out". YES, television does influence minds, especially young ones. Pornography and violence does affect the way people think... and in some cases, their actions. If a person is borderline already, violent games and pornography can push that person over the edge. Then we wind up with twenty children dead and countless other children psychologically scarred for the rest of their lives. We end up with grieving parents asking "Why? Why would a person do such a thing?"... when the answer should by now be clearly obvious.
It's because our society encourages it, on a daily basis, everywhere we look. If it bleeds, it leads.
We need to step back a bit and examine the reality of this situation. There weren't just 20 children killed at that massacre. Large numbers of children are killed every single day in wars throughout our globe. They have grieving parents too. More than that starve to death each day, or die of curable diseases such as dehydration or malaria. Thousands more die of the apparently-man-made disease of HIV/AIDS. Children are regularly maimed or killed when they step on old, forgotten land mines. Hundreds (thousands?) die each year due to domestic violence or child abuse. Others are sold into slavery and put through a life-long living nightmare.
It is natural to grieve for those who were murdered in that school yesterday. That's in our own back yard, so it hits home. But put in perspective... that incident is just a media-induced tip of the iceberg. It's the part that shows, the news story that sells. What about the massive swell of such atrocity invisible "under the water"... the ones that don't make the headlines?
IT'S NO DIFFERENT
Those twenty children in that school, the people in that theater, the Columbine massacre... those people are no different than the thousands killed in Iraq or the millions that died in the Vietnam, Korea and World Wars.
"Oh but that was wartime. Casualties are expected!" Well, this is war too-- war against creating sociopathic, deviant, twisted minds. Those minds are created by feeding them violent images through entertainment that is unregulated-despite-the-little-package-stamps, movies that show the worst kind of gore, violence and sadism, parents that have no right being parents in the first place, showing their children porn and DVDs regardless of the rating on the box. Such people are created because Hollywood has no conscience whatsoever in what it puts on the large screen or sells on DVDs through our local "family" Wal-Mart store or grocery markets.
This latest shooting is nothing more than a symptom of a much bigger disease: we have lost control of our society, and it's getting worse. Civilization is anything but civil.
When did it become legal, moral, ethical and even a "right" to depict anything we want on videos and games, regardless of how horrendous and offensive it may be? When did "freedom of expression" become more important than common decency? When did "freedom of speech" go beyond the ability to proclaim human rights and liberties-- and fall into the pit of "saying anything we feel like saying, no matter how vile, offensive, abusive or dangerous"?
When did we lose the ability to point to something as patently obscene?
Human liberty is meant to protect the rights of people to reasonable freedom and safety. But all things must be exercised in moderation-- and that includes our insistence on freedom of expression. In this country it is illegal to photograph or engage in child pornography-- but it's not illegal to draw or paint depictions of such. How is that even sensible? It is illegal to go out and chop someone up with a machete, but it's totally acceptable to do so repeatedly in a blood-and-guts-computer game or movie.
These actions are protected under our "rights" of freedom of expression and freedom of speech. But doesn't anyone stop to question the predictable consequences of such "freedoms" being taken too far-- the ultimate results on the fragile human mind when immersed in such sadistic environments on a daily basis? Do we really expect to surround ourselves with ultra-violent movies and computer games-- easily accessible in stores throughout our nation-- and not pay the price of twenty children being slaughtered while they're at school?
To this day I still meet people who don't believe we're in the throes of "Global Warming" (more accurately termed global climate change). They are still uneducated as to what it means, the symptoms, the consequences, and the huge amount of proof that we are already past the point of no return. In effect, they ignore reality and all evidence that contradicts their personal, biased beliefs.
Similarly, people will deny that entertainment, movies and violent computer games have any effect on "normal" people. "After all, I'm all right," they claim. The question is... how would they know? How would you or I possibly know what effect such things have had on our minds over the years? How could we compare the people we would have been without such things... the way society would have been without such influence? If our society for the past 60 years had forbidden gory movies, ultra-violent computer games and graphic pornography-- do you think we might live in a better, more civil world overall? How would anyone know? The damage is already done.
It's easy to argue that we had two world wars before television, DVDs and computers were ever invented... and that is a valid argument. That doesn't mean that such things didn't exacerbate an already-existent tendency of mankind toward violence. The Romans had the Gladiatorial arenas. The early 1900s had boxing-- one man beating another (sometimes to death) in the name of "entertainment". There has been no shortage through the centuries of feeding our lust for violence. But now it's more widespread, more easily accessible. All we need do is pop in a DVD or click a link on the Internet.
So when we get down to it, the answer to "How could a man do this kind of thing?" is easily understood. He had every stimulus, encouragement and tool to do so. The real question we should be asking is, "When can we expect the next one?" For there will be a next one, as surely as you are reading this text. Unless society changes, one thing we can certainly predict about the future: these atrocities will will not only continue, they will increase-- not only in number but in scale and horror.
Our hearts go out to the people who lost their family members in that unconscionable murder spree. We grieve for you... as far as we are capable of grief in the regular onslaught of disasters that have hit our senses lately.
But really, when it comes down to the why of it all... the reasons are as easily accessible as your computer, your television, your store shelves. Frankly, we should have seen this coming long ago. The wisdom is ancient: For what you sow, this you shall also reap.